Category: poetry


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As Brighton comes alive with its annual Arts Festival, I feel pleasantly isolated from all the activity up at the top of Muesli Mountain – the affectionate name for Hanover, the hilly area with its many coloured houses where I live. I’m enjoying a hiatus from mothering for 4 days, and though missing my son already it is so delicious to be able to follow my own curves of movement through space and time. To sit typing all day under a duvet, have only three dishes to wash up instead of about twenty, and to go dancing and see friends whenever I like. When I have childfree time my tendency can be to swallow all my creative time in social interaction, to make up for the snatched and interrupted conversations that are a feature of life with a small child. But I have managed this time to carve out some proper writing time, and plan to stick to it!

My ally in this is a simple new lists/time management method I’ve come up with. Nothing revolutionary, but I’ll share it anyway in case it helps. I’ve discovered that I need my goals for the week to be incredibly specific, or only vagueness and procrastination tend to result. For example, I used to have a goal of, say, five hours of writing a week. When regularly nothing more than one or two hours of writing occurred, I tried being more specific: ‘Working on short stories, poems and non fiction project for 5 total hours’. Nah. No difference. So now, I’ve literally broken it down to this degree: 1/2 an hour editing a poem for a booklet competition. 2 hours re-reading my novel with a view to finishing it. 45 minutes on a pitch to a magazine (oops, yet to get to that one!).

And so far, it’s working. I’m doing it for all areas of my life, too. In neat columns on a piece of paper on my wall, where I can cross things off. Instead of ‘clean flat’, it’s the nitty gritty of ‘hoover hallways’, etc. What this new list system has illuminated is the sheer amount of life admin and Breastfeeding Counsellor related admin tasks I have to do each week. And how these tasks tend to dominate and take over, leaving little breathing room for my writing. So again, I’m becoming strict about my time by designating particular days to each task – I will not book anything on a Monday unless absolutely unavoidable, as that will be my writing day. I will leave Thursdays mostly free too, with space for an artist’s date (which will be going to the Royal Pavilion Museum & Gallery today). Three weeks of this system and I am feeling pleased with the result. I’ve submitted flash fiction pieces to two websites, come up with a few new freelance article ideas and summaries, written up some interview questions for a non-fiction project, and done a lot of de-cluttering and filing which frees up space in my head and my physical surroundings. I’ve also got a new weekly yoga client starting next week. Most satisfying!

I’m also trying out a variation on a method a friend told me about, to deal with procrastination. I note down every action I take within a block of time that I’ve designated to work of some kind. That way I can see how many times I’ve gone onto Facebook and done other non-work-related tasks, and having to write it down makes me more accountable and more likely to skip it. I also like this quote from The Organic Sister, an inspirational and empowering life coach, as a way of dealing with avoidance tactics: ‘Is this feeding my soul? Feeding my greater vision and purpose in this world? Is this feeding the souls of others?’

Last time I told you about applying for a place on the Creative Writing MA at Westdean College. Well, I am pleased to tell you (although if you are one of my loyal readers you probably already know!) that I have been given a place on the course, and am to start, part time, in October. I am so excited about having 17 hours a week to devote to my creative writing. I know that the structure and input from talented writers will do so much for my knowledge about this craft, and I will finally be giving the necessary space for what I believe is one of my main purposes in life. In the meantime, my research for grants to fund my studies continues!

Here is a poem I wrote a while ago, which emerged from a writing exercise with my good friend and writing buddy Lou Ice. We like to meet at Marwood”s in the Laines, a great atmospheric coffee shop with comfy couches and interesting roof views at the top, and write for two hours. Lately I’ve been writing poems on the theme of Brighton, my home for 8 years, and in this one I gave some attention to a species of Brightonian that is often despised but which fascinates me – Seagulls.

Seagulls

above the city,

the steeples pitching light

against the cerulean sky,

the sky that makes me feel

like a balloon ready to burst,

that gathers

our summer memories and

lets them loose,

above the city,

the seagulls preen and call,

their steely eyes

capturing it all as they sit

on the roof of the flats above

Hardy’s Original Sweet Shop

in the Laines –

I see one seagull spread his wings, then

re-settle back on the roof,

thinking better of it.

His mate is nestled nearby,

head tucked under a wing,

possibly asleep.

Their secret life is conducted above us all.

The sky is their habitat,

while ours is the grey street,

looking down at our feet.

They see the piping

reaching from top to bottom of the

building with its curlicue brickwork

like the gingerbread house

in Hansel and Gretel,

the makeshift curtain

only half covering the window.

The gull’s mate

is asleep now,

the other still turns his head

like a weather vane,

perhaps observing the mildewed wall face

and the un-used red chimney tops,

the shops that used to be fishermen’s cottages,

and they don’t mind the grey,

because they have the blue,

the white passing clouds

and the sun so close they could dare it.

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…is that you often don’t feel like doing them a few weeks afterwards. I feel in quite a different space from my last post, when I was buzzing with goals and plans. Creating a manifestation collage for 2011 with my Sisters Circle revealed to me that my unconscious was bubbling up with some different ideas from my more linear cortex, which loves nothing more than to spin out endless to-do lists and goals.

Phrases like ‘breathe and relax’, ‘intuitive, ecstatic’, ‘slow down, be still’ and ‘fallow time’ as well as ‘your life, your way’ and ‘explore the treetops’ appeared in my collage, and it makes me feel more relaxed and less driven just looking at it. Despite Jude now being at the Dharma School 15 hours a week, I’ve not been doing as much writing as I intended, but not out of wanting to avoid it or procrastinate: more due to an increase in yoga teaching opportunities and a backlog of admin that urgently needed attending to (really, honestly!), because it somehow never was in the busy-ness of full time Stay-at-Home-Mom-ness: tax returns, admin for my course, blah blah…I won’t bore you anymore. I’m continuing to schedule in writing time week by week, and am confident that I will settle into a good fiction writing routine once my current freelance writing projects are complete. When I am working on my novel, it’s flowing much better and is a lot more enjoyable.

As I’d resolved to do monthly, on Wednesday night I went along to e.g. poetry, an event with published poets and open mike slots. It was good to read some of my work, but my honest feeling was that I didn’t connect with much of the poetry I heard, and in fact I find it a lot easier to read poetry than hear it. It felt very much like a ‘should’ to go there, when I felt more like going to a 5 Rhythms class. That’s another interesting thing about resolutions, plans and goals. Hhmm.

This week, I’m noticing what happens when I just follow the energy where it wants to go, without forcing. This does mean I only did my tax return yesterday, 4 days before the deadline, but it got done. Next time I will share more with you about an amazing workshop I attended last weekend, working on clearing limbic imprints, where all our emotional responses are stored. It has definitely left me with a different balance between the internal ‘slave driver’ and the part of me that wants to just enjoy life. It made me realise that money (while useful) is far less important to me than having creative dreaming time, time alone, and time in nature.

The volume has been turned up on the enjoying life bit, and this is a new experience for me. I’m taking walks in the woodland around the corner from Jude’s school whenever the weather allows – something I was hardly ever able to do when Jude was with me full time, at least not in the same way. I’m having naps when I want to. Lying in bed reading. It’s delicious. My challenge to you this week is to just notice what you really want to do and what you feel you should do – and investigate what happens when you follow the first one a little more (with the usual caveat of it not harming anyone else of course!)

 

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pic by Dayawanti D'Sa

Happy New Year everyone! This is the first New Year in a while that I’ve really connected with a sense of fresh possibility and excitement – a feeling that I can break through old barriers. I don’t know whether that’s due to finally being more settled in my environment – last January I was still in-between homes – and therefore able to look outwards and onwards again, or because of the Solar Eclipse and recent Jupiter-Uranus conjunction bringing positive expansion, or because we are so close to 2012 and all that that means for our development as humans – but it feels so good!

Last year I had big dreams for myself: solid goals, like living in community, being in a loving relationship, and having completed my novel by the end of 2010. It’s wonderful to dream big but it can also put a lot of pressure on us. It would be easy to be depressed about the way those goals haven’t quite materialised, but when I look at it honestly I wasn’t consistently applying effort in those directions – I kept getting sidetracked from what I was trying to manifest, and letting life pull me every which way. It’s been an emotionally turbulent year, but I’ve come out a lot wiser. So this year I’ve decided to approach New Year’s intentions in a different way: making intentions that are totally down to me. And, just as importantly, are measurable in small steps.

My lifelong friend and fellow writer Rin Simpson blogged about approaching New Year’s Resolutions month by month – sitting down at the beginning of each month and writing down your goals for that month, rather than losing momentum halfway through the new year. I like that a lot. It’s really quite simple: I want to take small enjoyable actions, one at a time, that are related to my big dreams for myself, and that gradually narrow the gap between where I’m standing now and where I want to be. Most importantly, I want to enjoy where I am right now as much as possible: spiritually, emotionally and physically!

Something I found very helpful to do was mindmap around my ideal working day and my ideal home – I confess, I have a digital ‘vision board’ of my ideal partner too, and have a list of qualities I’m looking for in a partner that are constantly refined 😉 These mindmaps – which I plan to collage around too, because visual representations are so good at activating manifestation – were so effective at getting me fired up about my life, that it was easy to come up with concrete steps. So, here are some examples of my New Years steps:

To energise my dream of being a successful poet, novelist and short story writer, I’ve decided to, each  month, schedule in nine hours a week to write, and aim for one poetry/short story/article submission per month, as well as a poetry performance where possible.

To move me closer towards my dream of reaching lots of people with the empowering tools of Kundalini Yoga and the power of writing and journalling, I’d like to facilitate one Kundalini Yoga or writing workshop per month – my upcoming New Years Yoga workshop on 8th Jan will focus on New Year intentions and bringing in positive energy to 2011, and I’m very excited about teaching it!  I’ve also decided to keep my determination and focus and see one thing through at a time – e.g. commit to teaching a class for three months, putting my all into it, before trying something else.

    I have plans to take a ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach this year and start finally using the  skills and knowledge I have to reach out to people – for example, I am planning some workshops to help give new mothers basic tools such as breathing and meditation that can be practiced in amongst the chaos. For so long it’s as if I’ve been waiting for someone to give me permission to teach what I know, and I suddenly realised that it can start now!

    pic by Dayawanti D'Sa

    To work on my goal of becoming more organised and efficient, I’m going to do one ‘sort out’ project each month – e.g. file bank statements, throw out old papers I don’t need etc. I’ve been doing this regularly lately and it’s great how much energy it releases, leaving me free to create new things in my life.

    And motherhood of course is not exempt from self-improvement – far from it. I have re-committed to being very clear on my intentions each day, to connect with Jude and put our connection and loving relationship at the forefront of my consciousness when I’m with him. I find when I am clear in my mind about my intentions, I can re-steer my wayward thoughts and actions back towards them more quickly and easily.

    To keep me connected to the spirit that sustains me through all of these things, keeping my focus on the internal rather than the ever-changing external – Yogi Bhajan taught that ‘all things come to those who are stable’ – I want to read, watch or listen to one inspiring thing every single day. It’s amazing what a difference it makes when I take the time to connect with the wisdom of teachers and writers such as Yogi Bhajan, Wayne Dyer, Abraham-Hicks and others who remind me of the greater purpose of my life beyond the roles that I carry out and the actions that I take. It eases stress and uplifts me out of the often narrow focus that can result from chasing after things.

      On that note, here are some quotes I’ve found on my web trawls recently that I found inspiring and uplifting, that deal with creating and manifesting in one’s life:

      Walking with faith tends to turn out better than just having a “concrete” plan. A flexible planwith faith creates miracles! ~Mastin Kipp TDL

      Recognize that you have the courage within you to fulfill the purpose of your birth. Summon forth the power of your inner courage and live the life of your dreams. ~Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

      Life is a handful of short stories, pretending to be a novel.-~~Anonymous
      If we fill our short stories with love a beautiful novel has the opportunity to transpire!~~~Margery@Angelhealingwaters

      Finally, I leave you with an affirmation I like: “I am open to beneficial change’ (vs ‘I wanna stay the way I am!’) (from ‘Simplify, Simplify, Simplify’ on Facebook). Really, all we can do is be open to the flow of change in our lives, and co-operate with it rather than running away. Bring on 2011!

      First off, apologies for my silence of late. I have decided to write shorter but hopefully more frequent posts, which many of you will probably be glad to hear! I realised I’d been feeling the pressure to produce nothing but erudite reflections, but sometimes I think it’s important to just shut up and write, as Natalie Goldberg says. My writer friend Lou-Ice’s (Louise Halvardsson) blog is an excellent example of tracking one’s life as a writer (or whatever it is you do), illustrating with well-chosen photographs (taken by herself usually) and inspiring others with the way you bring creativity into life. When I’ve got to grips with my new camera phone I’ll be adding some of my own creations!

      As Winter Solstice approaches with the reflections on dark and light that it brings, I wanted to share a beautiful event I was lucky enough to be part of last week: the Mothers UncoveredNight of Splendour‘ party and cabaret to celebrate three years of this amazing supportive network for mothers, which one participant remarked ‘ does more for the psychological well-being of mums than the health profession does throughout pregnancy and beyond.‘ The cabaret featured extracts from ‘The Naked Truth’ monologues and ‘Your Stories’. I have to admit I was in tears at several points of the evening as women bravely shared their (and others’) experiences of the light and dark sides of motherhood and every shade in between.

      The very hip band ‘YuMammaMeeMamma‘ had me in stitches in the second half as they sang songs interspersed by hilarious mother-to-mother dialogue that was instantly recognisable – and skirting the edges of provocative at times – and got us all to join in singing ‘We Rock the Pants of Motherhood’ (in harmonies!) at the end. It was so exhilirating to experience motherhood as something to be proud of, something to celebrate and recognise. Instead of an aspect of life that is very much stuck at the margins of society (although of course, I didn’t notice any non-mothers, or indeed non-women, at the event, other than the organiser’s husband).

      I read my poems ‘Three Month Mark’, ‘Untitled’, and ‘The Idea of an Aeroplane’ – all stage debuts. (Thanks Lou-Ice and Bernadette Cremin for valuable feedback during the draft stage of ‘The Idea of an Aeroplane’). It was an excellent opportunity to narrow the gap between my creative life and te day to day reality of motherhood. The poems represent three different ‘stages’  of my motherhood journey thus far (all three years of it!), and I’d like to share them. The first one, rather obviously, was written when I was pregnant; the second, when Jude was two, and the last one very recently. So, here goes!

      Three month mark (okay, so the picture is of my full term bump!)

      Tomorrow

      is the three month mark of our baby’s conception

      when our blind cells joined, oblivious.

      We drank vodka cocktails,

      spilt sex conversations

      until my breasts ached walking

      down the stairs for the thirteenth pee,

      and I nearly hit you in a hormonal rage.

      Now my Buddha belly grows rotund

      with this creature

      we created accidentally-on-purpose.

      Friends tell me stories

      of three-month-point abortions

      and miscarried twins

      In six months I will meet you

      I don’t know what you will look like

      or how I will love you

      If you will have imperfections

      grown in the womb

      or pre-destined by genetics

      If I will still love you, then.

      You are my consolation in the form of a bump

      barely visible,

      a secret I stroke and hold with a smile

      at odd moments of the day,

      when work dulls my shiny joy

      and the pointless commute wears me down.

      The shiver along my scalp

      like a bolt out of nowhere.

      As you, angel not yet incarnate,

      unfurl your blameless wings inside me.

      (Untitled)


      Holding my boy & he’s breathing.

      Something the Victorians wouldn’t take for granted.

      But I’m thinking of deadlines on essays

      and time running short,

      The refuse workers strike

      & how rubbish is piling up in the streets.

      I’m holding my son,

      his warm cheek under my armpit

      how little space he takes up,

      so new on this planet.

      But his footprint will grow

      with him, & soon he’ll use more

      resources than 10 Guatamalans.

      It’s strange how,

      when he’s asleep, lying on the pink-

      crayon-streaked sheet beside me,

      I miss him.

      Even as his breath descends

      into his chest: rise, fall, rise, fall.

      And his feet do that last twitch

      before I can do a stealth

      manoeuvre & escape.

      I wait, like a clock with a stiff second arm,

      for the day to release me into my private self:

      The self that knows words

      like ‘aver’, who guards her evening from the warp

      of days given over to chilly playgrounds

      and overheated libraries

      where today, he ran away from me,

      & panic stilled my blood.

      Now emptiness rises in my throat to

      catch me:

      you must live, you must stay,

      you must stay

      mine.

      The Idea of An Aeroplane

      An aeroplane streaks blue sky above,

      Leaving only trails of white.

      I know inside it will be stuffy

      With plastic food,

      But still there is the longing to

      Go

      Forwards, to Thailand

      With its spices and space,

      Or backwards to South Africa,

      Strangely comforting

      With its barren air of possibility

      Every time I hear that

      Distant thrum of a plane’s engine,

      I look up and am temporarily gone.

      Even if I am walking on green earth

      And birdsong is caressing my ears

      With fresh sound.

      Even though I’m walking with your

      Hand clasped in mine

      And even though the russet gold leaves

      Are crunching decisively under each step

      And even though I feel

      As vast as the remembered sky,

      And know that I am alive,

      And here, and real

      Still

      The idea of an aeroplane

      Can turn my head

      Away.